I am currently working as a ski chalet chef for Snow Retreat in La Tania in the French Alps and I decided to undertake Veganuary in one of the worst countries for vegetarians and vegans. Being vegetarian and on my 4th ski season, I am used to what the French menus have to offer. It’s okay for vegetarians if you are in Paris, Lyon or Grenoble, but the Alpine restaurants and local food shops are heavily meat and cheese orientated. I eat a largely plant based diet anyway and don’t consume any cow’s milk directly in cups of tea or with cereal (and haven’t done for over 10 years) but being in a relationship with a vegetarian cheese fanatic, Pete and I often eat cheese to get the protein in our meals, along with eggs.
When travelling and camping around Central and Eastern Europe after Slovenia, we often ate out at vegan cafes and restaurants and didn’t each much dairy in the campsites as it was hard to keep things cold, we didn’t exactly carry a fridge around in our tent! So I am pretty used to omitting dairy from my diet but I wanted to get involved in Veganuary to challenge myself to a full 31 days without. It’s so easy to do a ski season and eat pizza, fondue and raclette every week.
I bought the ‘How to go Vegan‘ book which was key in helping me truly understand veganism giving me all sorts of interesting information about nutrition, statistics and recipe ideas. I have seen all sorts of films such as Cowspiracy and What The Health, but what really upset me and I mean really upset me, was Land of Hope and Glory. It’s a UK based documentary about what really happens in the UK animal farming industry. The most surprising fact I learnt in this film is that “there is no legal definition or formal standards for free-range pigs, which means retailers can label pork products as free-range without having to adhere to any standards or guidelines” which i think is truly awful and totally misleading.
Cooking Vegan Food
When we are at work in the chalet, I cook Pete and I our personal food. Breakfast was easy as I am a massive porridge fan so I mainly ate that with soya milk and various fruity toppings, chia seeds and an omega 3 seed mix that I brought from the UK. I occasionally had cooked breakfast as our chalet company supplies Heinz beans, so I had beans on toast with Marmite (which is great for getting vitamin B12) and hash browns when I was feeling particularly greedy. The avocados are good out here too which was perfect for avo toast with grilled tomatoes.
We get fresh baguettes delivered to the chalets every morning so we get to make a delicious sandwich for lunch to take on the mountains. I regularly made my own hummus and lentil and mushroom pate which make great baguette fillings. It’s really easy to get a bowl of chips whilst out snowboarding too so occasionally would stop for a treat.
I love experimenting with different ingredients and making new things. The ingredients available in the mountains are pretty limited but there are some quite good ‘free from’ options in the local supermarkets, like firm tofu, lentils and plant based milks. There is a new bio shop in Moutiers which has everything a vegan could wish for but because of all the snow we’ve been having, we couldn’t get down there. I had a lot of fun experimenting with aquafaba (chickpea water) and managed to make pink meringues and dark chocolate mousse with it.
This is an example of a 7 day vegan dinner plan that I followed, all home made:
~ Lentil & beetroot burgers with fries
~ Tofu and vegetable stir fry
~ Creamy artichoke pasta
~ Baked potatoes with vegan toppings
~ Pizza with vegan Violife cheese
~ Chickpea stew with mashed potatoes and vegetables
~ Thai tofu curry with rice
(Some ingredients I brought from the UK like vegan green Thai curry paste, coconut oil, TVP mince, chia seeds and vegan cheese but these are now available in larger shops in the Alps)
A lot the meals are quite carb heavy but I just tried to cut down on my portion sizes. I do need quite a lot of fuel out here as the work is quite demanding running an 18 bed chalet and going snowboarding every day uses up a lot of energy. I don’t think I gained much, if any, weight.
I bought 70% dark chocolate for my sweet tooth and I made vegan flapjack and vegan chocolate cake for a the occasional indulgence.
Dining out in the French Alps as a vegan is quite difficult as every vegetarian option contains cheese. We went out on a staff meal to Cave de Lys in Le Praz. This is a wine bar that does really nice nibbles and tapas. They made me vegan bruschetta and there was plenty of bread rolls and sun dried tomatoes. I used Barnivore to check the wines were vegan too which was super helpful.
On our days off we have to buy our own food unless you are super organised the day before. I managed to make myself jarred overnight oats for breakfast and baguettes for lunch. I didn’t have any problems ordering a pizza ‘pas de fromage‘ and Pub Le Ski Lodge in La Tania actually have a vegan burger on it’s menu. I noticed a few more restaurants around Courchevel attempting to cater for vegans too by doing vegan burgers.
Did I complete Veganuary successfully?
I would say I had two slip ups! I ate a potato rosti for breakfast thinking it was the same ingredients as the hash browns, however, they have dehydrated eggs in them which was disappointing. At the end of January, I went out for a swanky meal in a 5* hotel in Courchevel as part of my freelance writing work with See Courchevel. I had a beautiful 4 course vegetarian dinner and I think telling them I was a veggie was enough to tip the chef over the edge. I enjoyed challenging them as their menu normally contains all meat, apart from the cheese board!
Half way through January, there was one day where I felt super lethargic and I really craved something fatty and full of protein. We have a stash of halloumi cheese that we’ve kindly been given by friends and I really wanted some, however, I made a gorgeous green lentil and TVP mince bolognaise instead which made me feel better. Apart from that blip, I did feel energised, full and I did sleep well.
Tips and Tricks
So many food stuffs are vegan that people don’t even realise. My mum bought me a massive tin of Oreos for Christmas so that was useful for little snacks. The pre made puff pastry we buy in the chalet doesn’t contain dairy so you can make little pasties and pies for dinner. My big tip is being organised with food planning so you definitely know that you have vegan food to eat in the evening. I am so busy working in the chalet that I had to make sure I had extra time to feed myself. In the Alps, it’s worth checking every supermarket in the villages as you will be surprised that the French are taking an interest in plant based milks and vegan food like hummus, tofu, soya cream, desserts and other alternative health foods. As mentioned earlier, the bigger towns with bigger supermarkets now stock a good bio selection.
Will I carry on being plant based?
I do hope to carry on eating a predominantly plant based diet when I am cooking for myself. Obviously I’m still 100% a strict vegetarian and I haven’t eaten an egg since the end of January, I also don’t plan to eat them anymore, they were easy to give up. I admittedly have had some halloumi cheese as an end of Veganuary (hangover) treat yet it did feel a bit weird. I love vegan food and the variety of different dishes that you can make. I am going to continue spreading the vegan word and stay as plant based as possible. Animals are friends not food!